But I wasn’t familiar with local trick-or-treat politics. You see, our street had been designated a low-candy zone by the locals and nobody bothered with it. Two streets over, people sat out all night on their stoops with bowls of Starburst and Milky Ways, laughing and passing out treats to dozens of princesses, superheroes and Harry Potters.
What a wasted opportunity. There were no hands reaching out from the grave, no howling ghosts in the trees or dry ice or lunging scarecrows. No screaming kids.
This year, of course, we have a pandemic to contend with. Children are more likely to stay home, and I’m not sure anyone has the stomach for more terror in their lives. To make matters worse, I’ve moved to a house in the mountains just outside Boulder, Colo. The closest thing I’ll have to a trick-or-treater will be the local black bear, who I doubt would appreciate being chased by an ax-wielding clown. I feel like my window for terrifying kindergartners is rapidly closing.
Every year in December, people decry the commercialization of Christmas, how the holiday has lost its meaning. Well, what about Halloween? It used to be a time when a dad could dress like the angel of death, set up Hollywood special effects in his front yard and make small children tremble on the sidewalk. Without tears and some light emotional scarring, Halloween is just another saccharine Hallmark holiday.
So, if you’re lucky enough to live on one of those high-volume, candy-rich streets in America and are feeling the weight of a difficult year, just not sure you want to put any effort into Halloween, think of me. Here, alone in the woods with no tiny people to terrorize, no use for my giant inflatable spider or my collection of ceramic skulls.
Even in politically polarized, economically depressed and uncertain times like these, we need to come together (in a socially distanced way) and remember we are one country, united in a love of giving out sweets and making children wet their Paw Patrol costumes. If not for yourselves, do it for me.
Erik Vance is a staff editor for NYTimes Parenting; part-time Christmas elf, assistant chocolatier to the Easter Bunny and aspiring undead ghoul.